Kathleen Wynne and Sandra Pupatello ready to get to work

Kathleen Wynne at the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership debate at the Old Mill Inn in Toronto,...

Kathleen Wynne at the Ontario Liberal Party Leadership debate at the Old Mill Inn in Toronto, Ontario on Wed. Jan. 9, 2013. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 6:54 PM ET

TORONTO – A day of voting and horse-trading lay ahead Saturday before 1,857 Ontario Liberal delegates crown the province's next premier.

Front-runners Kathleen Wynne and Sandra Pupatello arrived at the Toronto convention Friday to great hoopla, vowing to get right to work should they prevail.

Wynne pressed her perceived advantage over Pupatello -- that she is a sitting MPP who will be able to bring back the prorogued legislature at the soonest opportunity in February.

"The fact that I have a seat and we don't have to go into a byelection, we don't have to think about going into a general election but we can actually do what the people of Ontario are asking us to do which is to work with the opposition and govern, I think is very important," Wynne said.

Pupatello said her first task is winning the leadership.

"As soon as this is done, we're going to hunker down and get to work right away. I think the people of Ontario are going to be impressed with the speed that we're going to do that. We're going to have a cabinet and a caucus that will be reinvigorated and we're going to get moving," she said, adding the House could return in late March as in years' past.

Figures released by the party show that Pupatello was ahead, going in with 27.8% of committed delegates, followed by Wynne with 25.2%, Gerard Kennedy with 14%, Harinder Takhar with 13.1%, Charles Sousa with 11% and Dr. Eric Hoskins with 5.7%.

Both Wynne and Pupatello said they would quickly reach out to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and PC Leader Tim Hudak to make the minority government work.

Hudak said whoever wins the leadership this weekend -- whether they have a seat or not -- the House must return immediately.

"Back in October (when Dalton McGuinty announced he was resigning and prorogued the legislature), the Liberals walked off the job, we've lost a lot of time," Hudak said.

Horwath -- who kept the 2012 Liberal budget and McGuinty minority government alive -- said Friday that she was not pleased with last year's negotiations, which saw the Grits allege publicly that she'd gone back on her word.

"The Liberals accused me of something I did not do," Horwath said. "They decided to not be truthful with the public about my intentions even though it was on the public record.”

Without the real or tacit support of either the NDP or the Tories, the new premier will not be able to get a budget through the legislature and that would trigger a general election.


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